Vaccinations: still the best protection against serious animal diseases
In July 2012, there was an outbreak of Canine Parvovirus in Melbourne pet stores. This led the Australian Veterinary Association to issue a warning to all pet owners to vaccinate against the disease. This kind of event is why all vets and animal welfare groups across Australia agree that pet vaccination is just as important as it has ever been!
Just like in humans, vaccinating your pet is very important in managing the health of your pet. It builds their immune system and protects against fatal and incredibly serious and painful diseases. Vaccines have saved millions of pet lives. And even though some once common diseases are now rare, this is because of vaccinations.
How do pet vaccinations work?
A vaccine is given to your pet to help prepare their body's immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system, but don't actually cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated so if your pet is ever exposed to the real disease, their immune system is now prepared to recognise and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness. Just as a flu vaccination works for humans.
Which diseases do we commonly vaccinate against in pets?
The diseases we vaccinate dogs against are parovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, canine cough (kennel cough), parainfluenza and bordatella. We vaccinate cats routinely against feline enteritis, feline herpes, feline calcivirus, FIV (feline AIDS) and chlamydia. We also commonly vaccinate ferrets against distemper and rabbits against calcivirus. These diseases are either fatal or incredibly life-threatening. By learning more about the diseases we are trying to protect, we hope that all pet owners will stay up-to-date with their beloved pet's vaccinations.
Canine parvovirus, also known as parvo, is a highly contagious disease. The disease is transmitted by oral contact with infected feces. It is a highly infectious virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular systems of dogs. Young puppies and dogs that have not been vaccinated are particularly susceptible. It is very important to vaccinate against parvo, as the death rate in young non-vaccinated puppies can be greater than 80 per cent. In July 2012, there was an outbreak of parvo in Melbourne pet stores, as mentioned above.
The symptoms of parvo include depression, vomiting, diarrhoea (sometimes containing mucus or blood). Some dogs may have a fever, some may not. A tucked-up appearabce in the abdomen is common, as well as rapid dehydration. Parvo affects dogs of all ages, but most cases occur in puppies 6 to 20 weeks of age. The most efficient way to diagnose parvo is an in-house blood serum test is available for rapid diagnosis.
Canine distemper is a contagious, incurable, multisystemic viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems and which is often fatal. Early symptoms include: fever, loss of appetite and mild eye inflammation that may only last a day or two. Symptoms become more serious and noticeable as the disease progresses. Many dogs experience gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms, such as conjunctivitis (discharge from the eye), diarrhoea, fever (usually present but unnoticed) pneumonia (cough, difficulty breathing), runny nose and vomiting.
Young dogs and unvaccinated dogs are at the highest risk of being infected with the virus, causing infectious canine hepatitis. Very young puppies tend to develop the most serious illness.
Infectious canine hepatitis can cause a range of symptoms. Some dogs show very mild symptoms, but in severe cases the disease can be fatal. Symptoms to look out for include; fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, runny eyes and nose, cough and vomiting. Bleeding under the skin, bruising in the mouth, a swelling of the head, neck and trunk due to fluid accumulation in abdomen, jaundice (yellowish tinge to skin,) seizures, increased thirst and urination, and clouding of the cornea is seen in some animals later on in the course of disease.
Canine cough or kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection affecting dogs. It is caused by a combination of the canine parainfluenza virus and the bacteria, bordetella bronchiseptica. It is highly contagious. Kennel cough is so named because the infection can spread quickly among dogs in the close quarters of a kennel or animal shelter.
Viral and bacterial causes of kennel cough are spread by sneezing and coughing. Most causes of kennel cough are highly contagious, even days or weeks after symptoms disappear. Symptoms usually begin two to three days after exposure and can progress to lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia. Symptoms can include a harsh, dry cough, retching, sneezing, snorting, gagging or vomiting, in response to light pressing of the throat or after excitement or exercise. The disease can last initially from 10 to 20 days and can rebreak when the dog is put into a stressful situation which puts stress on the dog's immune system.
Canine parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is frequently confused with kennel cough. Canine parainfluenza is a major factor that can cause kennel cough. The disease can progress to pneumonia in puppies or chronic bronchitis in older dogs. Symptoms include a runny nose, a cough and laboured breathing.
Bordetella is a form of respiratory disease in dogs. It is one of several viral and bacterial agents responsible for kennel cough bordetella is highly contagious and easily transmitted through the air or direct contact with an infected source.
When your puppy/dog should be vaccinated:
|Age (Weeks old)||6-8||12-14||16-18||Yearly|
Protection from cat diseases
The F3 vaccination protects against feline enteritis, as well as two forms of feline respiratory disease.
Feline enteritis, is a highly contagious viral disease. Affected cats are depressed, lose their appetite and have vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Many cats, especially the old and very young, can die of this disease and pregnant queens may lose their young or give birth to kittens with brain damage. Cats that do recover may continue to carry the virus for some time and will be infectious to other cats.
Feline respiratory disease
Feline respiratory disease, otherwise known as cat flu, is usually caused by feline herpes virus and/or feline calicivirus. Feline respiratory disease can affect cats of all ages but is especially common in young kittens. The viruses cause sneezing, runny eyes, a discharge from the nose and ulcers in the mouth, predominantly the tongue. Cats will lose their appetite and have a high fever. The disease is distressing and can last for many weeks despite treatment. Cats will often become lifelong carriers of the disease, even once recovered, and can have recurrences of the signs regularly throughout their lives particularly when stressed and the lowered function of the immune system in consequence.
F4: Extra protection from chlamydia
The F4 vaccination covers all areas the F3 covers, with the added benefit of cover from chlamydia virus. Chlamydia in cats presents as an upper respiratory infection which will cause symptoms such as conjunctivitis and other forms of lung infection such as pneumonia.
FIV- Feline Immunodeficiency virus vaccination
The feline equivalent of HIV or human AIDS is the feline immunodeficiency virus. Like in humans, it is caused by a virus that makes it extremely difficult for the immune system to fight off disease. Also like humans, any infected cats remain symptomless carriers for some time before developing symptoms, but are able to infect other cats.
Infected cats may have repeated infections or illness that does not respond to treatment as expected. Weight loss, poor coat quality, loss of appetite and fever can also occur. Eventually the immune system may become too weak to fight off other infections or diseases and as a result the cat may die. Infection is often spread through fighting with other cats. Many stray or tomcats carry the virus, so it is very important to vaccinate your cat against it as it is very common.
When your kitten/cat should be vaccinated:
|Age (weeks old)||6-8||12-14||16-18||Yearly|
|Vaccination||F3||F3 or F4||F3 or F4||F3 or F4 Booster|
Contact us to learn more or to make a vaccination appointment.